Brexit and brains: blink and miss the logic

Britain’s decision to remain in, or exit from the European Union has surprised us all with the extent of the passions that have been stirred up. In the context of Brains and Minds and the exercise of applied intelligence, what is interesting is the extent to which the dialogue between “Remain” and “Brexit”, as exemplified in last night’s BBC extravaganza of a “debate”, betrayed our species’ trademark rush to judgement in the blink of an eye, the exercise of a wide range of cognitive biases in defense of unabashed passion, and disrespectful trashing of the motives of those who disagree.

Neither in last night’s debate nor in the dialogue that has dominated the UK’s attention for weeks now, has there been any shortage of good questions and answers on both sides. Neither has had a monopoly on reason or passion. Nor indeed have we been short on “mongering” either. One charges the other with spreading hate on immigration; the reverse monger is of Project Fear on the economy. The debate’s closing statements featured a defence of expertise from Remain, followed by a visceral plea from a politician who never recognised a rabble he could not rouse, deploying an imperfect analogy in defense of a Brexit case that was holed before the debate began by one of its advocates actually dismissing the claims of experts.

What does it mean that a former education secretary with a reputation for the deft application of intellect should scorn people with expertise? With all the clamouring for good evidence and information about a question as big as the challenge of Brexit, and given our slow ascent from the swamp to the summits of human achievement, do we not want to take note of the people who have made a living from considering evidence and thinking things through on some relevant topic, earning their stripes and tee shirts along the way?

People whose minds will not have been made up can feel what they like in responding to populist spasms, but cannot fail to recognise in Remain the greater benefits of sound circumspection. Appeals merely to hope and faith and “getting our country back” are modes of thinking that are declining in the face of reason, science, and a belief in the need to work together for a better world.

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4 thoughts on “Brexit and brains: blink and miss the logic”

  1. I wonder what data an ‘applied intelligence’ would need to make a balanced decision on Brexit or Remain?

  2. Regretfully, BAM loses to Emotion and Guts. We have the same problem on this side with politicians placing Billboards saying,
    “Make America White Again”! Really. People are not after reason, they want a time machine and are willing to give up so much to “feel Great Again”. Pretty Crazy and it leads us down that Path that History has taken before. Alas, no one reads anymore!

    1. . . . with at least two local exceptions!
      As to “losing”, what people will lose as a result of Brexit may take a little time to become clear, and it may well transpire that the sort of people who win Brexit votes will come out of all this less well than the sort of people who lose them.

      1. Yes Tam, given the reported demographics of the average Brexit supporter, they may well fare worse. And yes Jerry, people in general need to become better educated about politics in their own and other countries…

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